Okay, I’m confused: If a singer is billed as the primary artist on a track, shouldn’t they have a bigger part than the featured artist?
Bebe Rexha is ostensibly a solo pop artist, but ever since her mainstream debut in 2014, her biggest successes have been collaborations with other artists (“Hey Mama” with David Guetta, Nicki Minaj, and Afrojack, “Me, Myself, and I” with G-Eazy). Now, however, she has decided to dip her toes into the country pool, teaming up with Florida Georgia Line for her latest single “Meant To Be.” It’s a bizarrely-constructed track that inexplicably gives FGL far more mic time than Rexha herself, and while it’s not the flaming pile of garbage you might expect from a pop artist that’s “gone country,” it’s still a long way from being any good.
The production is surprisingly sparse here, with a spacious piano handling the melody and a simple drum machine on percussion duty. (The only other instrument is something that sounds like a cross between an electric and steel guitar that adds a few notes during the chorus.) The mix starts out decent enough, as the producers heavily restrain the drums and let the piano establish a mellow, relaxed atmosphere that fits the tone of the writing well. The problem is that drums slowly grow in prominence and complexity as the song goes along (especially during the choruses), injecting unnecessary noise into the track and completely ruining the piano’s mood. Had the producers left the drums well enough alone, the song would feel more cohesive and consistent, but instead it feels confusing, and leaves me pretty ambivalent about the whole thing.
The vocal arrangement furthers the listener’s confusion by switching the roles of the participating artists. When I listen to a Bebe Rexha song, I expect Rexha to play a primary role in the song from the outset. What I don’t expect to hear is Tyler Hubbard of FGL opening the song and doing the lion’s share of the singing, with Rexha’s role limited to the second verse and some choral harmonies. (Then again, I suppose it could be worse for Rexha: She could have gotten Brian Kelley’s barely-audible job.) Both Hubbard and Rexha actually sound decent here—the track fits the singers’ ranges well, the slow tempo doesn’t strain their flow, and the pair even shows off some surprising vocal chemistry (although why Rexha’s harmony vocals are louder than Hubbard’s melody ones is beyond me). It’s a tolerable arrangement, but it’s also a misleading one.
The lyrics try to tell the tale of a man trying to convince a woman to live in the moment and stay with him for as long as the mood is right, but the writing is too lazy, repetitive, and superficial sounding to make his case. For one thing, the verses seem to be working at cross-purposes: The woman has been hurt in the past and seems to be looking for real love, and the guy’s just like “Who cares about love? Let’s just chill and see what happens,” as if he’s looking for an excuse to have cheap foreplay with no commitment. Once you get beyond the verses, the song devolves into saying “it’ll be” a zillion times, save for a “maybe we ____” bridge that is completely devoid of wit or substance. The whole thing comes off as sleazy rather than convincing, and feels like two-thirds of a song that gets stretched to cover an entire track. Did it really take four writers to put this drivel together?
Overall, “Meant To Be” is a mess of halfhearted writing, ill-fitting production, and backwards vocal credits. If Bebe Rexha really wants to cross over into country music, her team needs to a) find a better song, and b) actually let her take the lead on it. As it is, the only thing this song is “meant to be” is ignored.
Rating: 4/10. Skip it.